In January 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds into its flight. It was about 11:30 in the morning, and I was a reporter at a daily newspaper in New Jersey. The time of day was significant because it meant that if we hustled, we could get the story into the afternoon edition of the paper.
Skip ahead to January 2009. US Airways flight 1549 lands in the Hudson River at about 3:30 in the afternoon. No longer in the newspaper business, I learned about the landing a few seconds after it happened, through Twitter. I immediately went to NYTimes.com and NY1.com, but there was no news for several minutes. By the time the print newspapers came out the next morning, I already knew all about the story, including first-hand reports, photos and videos.
The Apple’s tablet did make 2010 “the year of mobile,” or more accurately, the year newsrooms finally started to take mobile seriously. Media companies are still finding their footing, and the scattered approaches — ranging from PDF replica edition apps to yard sale guides.
What has changed and what lessons are still to be learnt?
The big iPad battle is on. Richard Branson just beat Rupert Murdoch by launching his iPad only magazine Project ahead of Murdoch’s The Daily and he did so with great élan, right at the seat of Murdoch’s empire.
While just about every major newspaper and magazine is mulling over an iPad version, all is not very well at print land. The global magazine association FIPP has revealed that in Britain alone, there are 319 titles lesser than in 2009. The main cause being declining advertisement revenues, the worst affected has been magazines.
The publishing industry was threatened by change once earlier – during the dot com bubble. Everyone predicted the end of the newspaper. Fortunately, the print industry survived until now; but not without a few broken bones.
In the recent past, the print media have taken a massive pasting by the amount of enormous free content that the Internet makes available causing circulation and hence advertising revenue to decline sharply.
The launch of the iPad throws up many possible options. Many argue that the ipad will help engage better with readers and hence help revitalize and convert online readers to paying customers. Others feel strongly against.
That said, the Rupert Murdochs and Richard Bransons of the world are taking the risks and investing millions into launching their own iPad newspapers and magazines.
The pro’s and con’s continue to be discussed…
With 2011 prophesied to be the year of the ‘tablet’ by media moguls, many publishers around the world are seriously contemplating a digital versions to their titles. In this scenario, one wonders if they are indeed as good a business as they are projected to be. Apparently not or at least not yet says Jeff Bercovici.
Take that, mallus.
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